B.R. Ambedkar, to date, remains one of the most revered figures in Indian political history. From Nagpur in Maharashtra to Nalanda in Bihar, one can see his blue-suit statue holding the Constitution in one hand and pointing an index finger ahead, which, to some, is an indication towards a glorious future. It is not just a brick-and-mortar structure but a representative of the aspirations of Dalits across the nation. It serves as a source of inspiration for millions in the marginalised sections who are still entrapped with the existential challenges of survival.
The Constitution was drafted by a committee chaired by him. The greatness of the man becomes insurmountable when one encounters the provision of equality of opportunities in the Constitution. Ambedkar was denied basic respect and dignity in his lifetime. Regardless of that, he was able to rise to power without any vengeance and with empathy for everyone.
Ambedkar beyond Constitution
Ambedkar was a man who was clearly ahead of his time. His phenomenal scholarship on several academic disciplines was a testimony to his intellectual genius. His impact was undermined, and he was restricted only as a leader of the oppressed classes. It was the greatest disservice done to his legacy. Why did post-Independence historians ignore his multi-dimensional personality? Ambedkar the diplomat, for instance, is not known to the current generation. His views on China show that he was a visionary diplomat, much better than the self-declared internationalist — Jawaharlal Nehru.
Speaking at a gathering of students at the University of Lucknow in 1951, Ambedkar forewarned, “The government’s foreign policy failed to make India stronger. Why should not India get a permanent seat in the UN Security Council? Why has the Prime Minister not tried for it? India must choose between parliamentary democracy and the Communist way of dictatorship and come to a final conclusion.”
On China, Ambedkar strongly disagreed with the Tibet policy. He said, “If Mao had any faith in the Panchsheel, he certainly would treat the Buddhists in his own country in a very different way. There is no room for Panchsheel in politics.”
Ambedkar and the Congress
In the 1952 Lok Sabha election and the 1954 bypolls, the Congress, with Nehru campaigning against Ambedkar, defeated him in Dadar, Bombay. It was the other political parties, including the Jana Sangh that got Ambedkar to the Rajya Sabha. Nehru was responsible for the ouster of Babasaheb from the Cabinet. Ambedkar had quit the Congress government in 1951, and the Jana Sangh, the Socialist Party and the Scheduled Caste Federation (SCF) contested elections jointly in the Central province.
Ambedkar was posthumously conferred with the Bharat Ratna — the highest civilian award in India — by the National Front, led by the Janata Dal in 1990. The government was aided and supported by the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP).
“Not a single book was republished. None of his writings that were kept under wraps have been made public. The greatest injustice ever done to Ambedkar when he was alive was by the Congress,” said the grandson of Babasaheb, Prakash Ambedkar. There are countless such anecdotes about the antagonism directed towards Ambedkar by the Congress.
Ambedkar and the BJP
One of the first few decisions taken by the National Democratic Alliance (NDA) government after 2014 was the development of the Panchteerth — five places related to Ambedkar were converted into ‘smriti sthal’ (memorials). The Dr Ambedkar International Centre at the heart of Lutyens’s Delhi at Janpath has a special place in the Dalit imagination. The Constitution Day, celebrated annually on 26 November, is another example of the commemoration of Ambedkar beyond mere symbolism.
Sabko Samman, Sabko Pratinidhitva
For the first time in the history of Indian politics, social justice is being reflected in the critical decision-making positions in the Narendra Modi government. Twelve Dalits are part of the Union Council of Ministers and three Dalit women — Baby Rani Maurya, Vijay Lakshmi Gautam, and Gulabo Devi are part of the UP Council of Ministers. Even in terms of organisational hierarchy, the BJP was the first national political party to have a Dalit as its president, Bangaru Laxman. The first Dalit Speaker of Lok Sabha, G.M.C. Balayogi, was appointed during NDA-I.
The legacy of Ambedkar is no longer contested anywhere. Service to Ambedkar is service to his people. They are no longer led and now aspire for leadership positions in power structures. That is the real tribute to the legacy of the man.
Guru Prakash @IGuruPrakash is the national spokesperson of BJP. Views are personal.
(Edited by Humra Laeeq)